NOMEN Lab #4 The Fluid Body on an Uneven Political Ground


Our bodies carry our personal and political histories. These histories reinscribe our internal and external world. Our actions in any social space are to a certain extent guided and shaped by these scripts. Sometimes, to such an extent that we reproduce our ancestral past without any conscious awareness. Who are we to judge, decide, chose in life, when we do not always understand in what kind of political time we were born into, and what kind of personal desires it already produced and destroyed? Who are we then as descendants of those who have not fought their last battle? Is it possible to have an inward gaze and be able to separate what is ours and what is not? What good is it to do that?

“The colonial gaze is shaping my body in two ways. By doing so it re-inscribes an older unfinished history of persecution and saving life into my corporeal presence. First, the colonial gaze defines my body as privileged, desired, and hierarchized in relation to other bodies that it deems abject. In the second way, my body is a fetishized token standing for the afterlife of a 6 million dead. In both ways, my body is used as a tool of oppression. Yet, my body is located in a space where it should not be living, but rather be commemorated as death, its existence in this space is an act of resistance to the German politics of memory and to the Zionist project of a homogeneous Jewish homeland.

As such, my body contains many moments of a past that are mine personally and it is shaped by the genocidal brutality that is supposedly humanity’s responsibility.” Adi Liraz

Through a four-chapter-performance, Adi Liraz will re-create a process of embodying history/ies and being alive as shaped and shifted by the colonial gaze of German and Israeli nationalisms.

By creating an organic space made out of those experiences Liraz produces new channels to share those experiences collectively. The interactive performance aims to create a temporarily set counter-public and community. How we act upon this and in this will define how we can have an empowered space of belonging. In the second part of the lab, we will  reflect verbally and collectively on what we have produced. What good did it do for us and as a form of political action?

Adi Liraz is a multi- and interdisciplinary artist, curator and activist. In her work, she often bridges private and public experiences, discourses and spaces. She reflects on her personal and collective identity, particularly on her role in society as a migrant, woman and mother. Liraz received a BFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem (2001) and an MA from the Art Academy Berlin Weißensee (“Art in Public Context, Spatial Strategies”, 2014). Adi is a founding     member     of     the     NOMEN      Collective.

The lab is the fourth and last one before our winter break, from a series of NOMEN Labs: The Body and the (Neo)colonial Gaze, by the NOMEN Collective

The body -particularly the female body- has become center attention again in the last weeks because of the debated burka- (Germany) and burkini- (France) ban. While the debates have brought once again to the fore, that Europe reinscribes religious bodies as too particular in the secular public sphere, it has also (re)produced the body of the religious woman of color as a problem that needs further regulation, disciplining and policing. Activists have contended on both sides, that the existence of the religious female body of color marked by cultural difference is either a matter of choice or of oppression. However, we in the NOMEN Collective would like to complicate this discourse. By aiming to unpack the notion of neutral bodies in neutral publics we will offer a mini lab series on the body and the (neo)colonial gaze in our contemporary political context.

The aim of the lab series is to demonstrate the ongoing work an alleged neutralization of bodies is doing to actually mark bodies as too religious, too political, too hysterical, too particular. While all of these claims and counter-claims about female bodies are certainly not new, we would like to use the space of the lab as a creative way to talk and re-enact certain sentiments, emotions, and sensibilities in order to raise awareness for processes of knowledge-production, religious practice, intra-communal struggle as always already complicated by the (neo)colonial gaze. While we agree, that there is no neutral body, that all bodies are produced and made productive through subjugation and discursive webs of power, we also want to complicate the notion of choice vs. oppression by reflecting collectively on processes of socialization into a communitarian subjectivity, a professional practice or a religious tradition. The notion of the neocolonial is important in pointing out, how certain power asymmetries have older genealogies, but come in a new disguise not by simply exercising brute power or change of structure, but by turning older colonial questions into questions of culture and cultural normativity. Further, the neocolonial is also a way to integrate postcolonial and decolonial intellectual movements into issues of political dominance within the heart of the empire/nation-state.

The colony is here and now, it holds untamed subjects and their performing bodies. What do certain body formations hold and what do they foreclose? We would like to perform and discuss this in the lab with an intimate circle of participants. The lab will be opened by one NOMEN Collective founding member with a personal story, that will turn its gaze into these analytic categories and broader questions of whose bodies become permissible and have access to upward mobility and whose bodies remain marked and signs of alterity. After the short input of 20-25 minutes, we will turn into a discussion, reflection and tool-making how some of these issues can be turned around and become tools of empowerment. The lab will work as a crucible to simmer and cook ideas that have validity in their practice. Artists, activists, community workers, and people of color are particularly encouraged to participate, share their perspectives and to carry some strategies into their field of activism.

The lab will be held in English.

Since we would like to keep an intimate atmosphere and the space cannot contain more than 25 people, we ask all interested to register to the following address until Sunday, December 18th: Please introduce yourself briefly alongside with your registration.

Tuesday, December 20th 2016, from 7 – 9:30 pm at Bilgisaray, Oranienstraße 194, Berlin Kreuzberg

This is the final lab in a series of 4 lab-talks!

NOMEN Collective for Ethical Art and Political Practice was established on March 2016 in Berlin by Sultan Doughan, Adi Liraz, Armeghan Taheri and Hannah Tzuberi and joined by Patricia Piberger and Nahed Samour.

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